USDA Rural Development RBS Administrator Sam Rikkers and USDA RD State Director Basil Gooden, Ph.D., visit the Shenandoah Organic Valley, a VAPG grant recipient, on April 18th, 2016.
Corwin Heatwole describes himself as quite the stubborn – though innovative – teenager. Leaving home at 17 years of age, this hardworking young man from Harrisonburg, Va. started several successful businesses in his early 20s before he discovered that there was a growing demand for organic chicken in the U.S. In 2013 he bought 300 chickens with not one buyer yet in sight. Now, with the help of USDA, he has more demand than he can handle.
Since that day, Corwin has grown the business from 35 employees to nearly 350 in just 25 months with the assistance of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In October of 2014, Corwin received $200,000 in a working capital Value Added Producers Grant from USDA Rural Development and in January of this year, he also received a $600,000 Business and Industry Guaranteed Loan (B&I). He used the guaranteed loan to upgrade a very old plant with state-of-the-art packaging and processing machines. Without the packaging machines in particular, he noted, he would have never been able to fulfill his growing orders from Costco and Whole Foods. And through this growing business, he has been able to increase his farmers’ end-of-the-year net income by 75 percent. Read more »
“Each audit is different and a unique experience—which I love, because it allows me to work with all facets of agriculture.” – Nikki Adams, USDA PVP Auditor
As an auditor for USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), I am one of a small group of highly-qualified individuals from across the country who audits companies that use our programs and services to add value to their products in the market place. One of these programs is the USDA Process Verified Program, or USDA PVP for short.
For a PVP audit, I do a significant amount of preparation before I’m even on-site, pouring over the Quality Manual the company prepared as part of their application. The Quality Manual – the starting point for any PVP – documents all of the process points, the scope of each, and the standard I am ensuring they will meet. To evaluate this effectively, I rely on my extensive training in International Organization for Standardization’s (ISO) quality management system requirements and audit principles, as well as training specific to the industry, processes, and points being audited. Read more »
Infographic of Super Bowl & chicken wing facts. Click for a larger version.
On January 15, 1967, the Green Bay Packers faced off against the Kansas City Chiefs in the very first Super Bowl. On that day, few of the estimated 51 million fans gathered around their television sets realized the profound impact the Super Bowl would have on chicken consumption in the United States. The Packers won the game 35-10, but ultimately the real winner was chicken – particularly wings.
In 1967, Americans consumes 32.6 pounds of chicken per capita, typically purchased in whole-bird form. Cuts of chicken were a novelty at the grocery story, and there was little demand for chicken wings. But, in 1964, the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, N.Y. decided to turn the typical soup-stock staple into a spicy finger food to feed a hungry crowd. Read more »
Celebrate Super Bowl 50 by looking at how food safety has changed over the past 50 years.
The Super Bowl is a very popular food “holiday” in the United States, and this year’s game marks a milestone. Super Bowl 50, dubbed the “Golden Super Bowl,” will be played on February 7, 2016.
Help set the gold standard and ensure that you and your guests remain free of foodborne illness by following four steps to food safety. Read more »
Breonna Walker from Englehard Elementary School in Louisville, KY enjoys a nutritious and delicious school lunch. Photo courtesy Jefferson County Public Schools
The following guest blog from a school and community nutrition services director in Louisville, Kentucky highlights how non-profit School Food FOCUS relies on USDA’s Process Verified Program (PVP) to help increase transparency and choice for school food purchases. USDA’s objective, third-party auditing services focus on increasing transparency from farm to market by offering verification based on clearly defined, implemented, and transparent process points.
By Julia Bauscher, Director of School and Community Nutrition Services, Jefferson County Public Schools, Louisville, Kentucky
The first time School Food FOCUS brought together a group of school food directors like myself to talk about how we could improve the quality of chicken—the number one protein we serve to students—I was thrilled and a little daunted.
Schools across the country spend nearly $1 billion on chicken every year. That’s a lot of buying power. School Food FOCUS challenged us to think about the changes we can make to our food system if districts leveraged this buying power to create a demand for chicken that is better on the plate and for the environment. Read more »
Drew (left) and Joan Norman (center), One Straw Farm and, Catherine Webb (right) of Springfield Farm shared stories and insights about their operations after a farm to table lunch at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Chesapeake Bay Field Office on October 27th, 2015.
As the autumn leaves in the Northeast were just beginning to blanket the ground in late October, the USDA Northeast Climate Hub held its first annual –university network hosted– Partner Operational Discussions. The group convened in Annapolis, Maryland where working meetings were held at both the Chesapeake Bay Program and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Chesapeake Bay Field Office on October 26th and 27th, 2015. On the second day, after much conversation, assorted presentations and a locally sourced farm-to-table lunch from A Cook’s Cafe, the group took a step back to listen to those whose daily work has dictated the very mission of the USDA Climate Hubs: farmers. Maryland-rooted farm operators, Drew and Joan Norman of One Straw Farm and Catherine Webb of Springfield Farm, formed a panel with moderators Joana Chan and Allison Chatrchyan of the Cornell Institute for Climate Change & Agriculture. Together they chatted about their operations, experiences with extreme weather events, practices and information needs. Read more »